Реклама в Интернет * Все Кулички
Kovalev continues to make his points // Post-Gazette
By Dejan Kovacevic
Alexei Kovalev didn't bother tuning in the NHL All-Star Game a couple of days ago. Didn't bother with much of anyone or anything all weekend, actually.
"I was busy," he explained with a playful grin after the Penguins resumed practicing yesterday at Southpointe. "Too much to do at the spa."
His freshly acquired fried-lobster look, courtesy of an artificial tanning machine, was testament to that. Still, the most likely reason why he didn't watch the league's midseason showcase was that he felt burned by being left out.
"Yeah, I can say I'm really disappointed I didn't go," he said. "But it's not the most important thing in my life. If I go, I go. I went last year for the first time, and it was fun. I know what I've done this year, and I think my teammates know what I've done. That's what counts for me, finding a way to help my team win hockey games."
To that end, Kovalev has more than held his own.
It wasn't until six weeks into the season that he scored his first goal, hampered by a knee injury that had hobbled him through the first four games then knocked him out of the next 13 when he had surgery to repair it.
From there, he has been no less the offensive dynamo he was in piling up a career-best 44 goals and 51 assists last season to tie for fourth in the NHL scoring race.
In 40 games, he has 20 goals and 22 assists, his point total ranking first on the team and 48th in the league. Among NHL players who have 40 or more points, only two -- the Calgary Flames' Jarome Iginla and the Washington Capitals' Jaromir Jagr -- have a better points-per-game average than Kovalev's 1.05. Iginla is the league's leading scorer, and Jagr, like Kovalev, has missed 13 games to injury.
"Kovy's one of those guys where, if you give him an opportunity, he's going to finish it," Penguins Coach Rick Kehoe said. "He showed that last year, and he's showing it again this year. If you look at his numbers, his production has been right on par."
"You can't show how good you are just by one season," Kovalev said. "People have been talking about me like that for a long time. I'm not doing this now because I'm trying to prove something. I'm not trying to prove I can have the same kind of season as last year. I just want to play hard and do my best. If you play hard and show how badly you want it, things will happen for you."
In August, an arbitrator awarded Kovalev a two-year contract worth $8.85 million. That placed him among the league's lower tier for top-flight scorers and, in turn, heightened expectations markedly. Before last season, he never topped 26 goals or 66 points, but the production he achieved to justify that salary now would be considered the standard.
Elevating the challenge was the near-elimination of his supporting cast. Jagr had been traded, and Mario Lemieux missed two months with hip surgery, shoving whichever happened to be Kovalev's line to the top of the depth chart. To boot, Martin Straka has missed three months with a broken leg, leaving Kovalev and Robert Lang without their linemate of the previous two years.
"That's what makes this so great, what Kovy is doing," Lang said. "He hasn't had that much help out there, facing all the checkers and top defensemen. It's been hard for him, but he's still scoring goals. That should tell you that what he did last year was not a fluke. I think everybody should give him credit for that now. Last year, everybody was going, 'Yeah, it's just a one-time deal.' He heard that stuff."
He also heard how he might have been motivated to find the net in the final year of his contract.
"I hate that, when people talk about contract years," Lang said. "That doesn't matter to anyone, and it didn't matter to Kovy. Nobody wants to look like an idiot and have 95 points one year and 40 the next year."
Kovalev isn't a fan of discussing his contract under any circumstances, but he did acknowledge that the pressure to produce this season is greater than last.
"That's fine. That doesn't bother me. I've always liked playing under pressure. Good players always find a way to be successful, even when they're missing other good players from the lineup. You have to find a way."
There was a time, not that terribly long ago, when Kovalev was considered a tantalizing enigma. An east-west player in a north-south game. An unrivaled stickhandler who seemed more intent on style points than goals or assists.
Evidence continues to mount that player might never be seen again.
"I feel pretty confident. It's not just about last year or this year.
I think I've found a team and a city where I can be successful, and I don't
want it to be something for just a year or two. I want it to be for however
long I have left to play."
Страничка Алексея Ковалёва на
сайте "Звёзды с Востока"
21 сентября. Форвард «Монреаля» Алексей Ковалев: 37
удалений за матч? Я не удивлен - "Советский Спорт".
29 августа. Форвард «Монреаля» Алексей Ковалев: Дайте
народу зрелище - Советский Спорт
12 июля. Алексей Ковалев: Гуденау понимает, что он
виноват - Советский Спорт
21 сентября. Форвард «Монреаля» Алексей Ковалев: 37 удалений за матч? Я не удивлен - "Советский Спорт".
29 августа. Форвард «Монреаля» Алексей Ковалев: Дайте народу зрелище - Советский Спорт
12 июля. Алексей Ковалев: Гуденау понимает, что он виноват - Советский Спорт